Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is not native to Vietnam, but it grows well there. The country's economic reforms in the 1990s boosted pepper production and export and Vietnam has become the world’s top black pepper exporter.

The crop has been a boon to many poor Vietnamese farmers. However, the rapid growth brought problems, such as unsustainable cultivation methods and pesticide overuse. For the past 10 years, Frontier Co-op has worked with Pacific Basin Partnership, a long-time partner in our Well Earth sustainable sourcing program, to promote organic and clean black pepper and other spices.

We’re now partnering with Pacific Basin and the non-profit Sustainable Food Group on a three-year program to transition 150 additional growers in Central Vietnam to organic or low-impact production.

The farmers will receive training and support to help them improve their soil sustainably, optimize food safety and adopt organic and integrated pest management (IPM) practices. This means safer methods for farmers, reduced environmental impact and an opportunity for small-scale farmers to increase their incomes with premium prices for the organic and clean pepper. Frontier Co-op is contributing $125,000 to the program.